I lead a weekly online yoga class at Yogis Anonymous and this beautiful blog was sent to me by someone who religiously takes it in her living room. How do you like that, Tribe? Connection is so powerful. Marika Delan and I have never met but when she sent me this I knew I had to publish it.
“You think it’s a sign?” my sister asked as she picked up the dragonfly paperweight sitting at the reception desk while we waited.
I smiled thinking probably not. Not everything can be a sign, right? My mood was so foul that day I wouldn’t have seen a sign if it hit me in the face.
I had a wonderful morning that day doing an online yoga class with my favorite yoga teacher Jennifer Pastiloff. Jennifer is no ordinary yoga teacher. She imparts a wisdom so simple, yet illusive to so many. Being yourself and being ok with it. Jennifer exposes her secrets and her fears and her experiences with no fear and teaches her students (she calls us her “tribe”) to do the same. And because she is brave enough to expose herself, we feel free to let it go. This day her theme was kindness (there is always a theme).
How often do people extend a kindness to us only for us to say, “I can’t accept it”
“Accept it!” She said, “Accept the kindness!”
It’s true. We often don’t accept other’s kindness. Why? Because we feel like we don’t deserve it? Because then we will be indebted to someone else and it leaves us obligated when the last thing we want is another obligation?
After my perfectly serene yoga morning, my mood started to plummet despite my best efforts to stay afloat amidst this impending sadness I had started to feel.
Sometimes when you think that things have left you; that you have dealt with all the skeletons in your closet and demons haunting the outer recesses of your mind…. They only come back later to rare their ugly heads and remind you that they are still with you……
Choking you with the noose that you thought you had quietly slipped your head out of only to find it tight around your neck leaving you gasping for air….. again…….
The panic of realizing that it still has a hold on you when you thought you had conquered it is a difficult pill to swallow…..
and again I find it stuck in my throat.
The sticky gelatin coated pill, lodged in your esophagus that you still feel, stuck there, no matter how much you try to wash it down.
Just like the antidepressants that I despised and felt shameful about. I should be able to do this on my own. I should be wise enough and strong enough to not need a pill. I should be able to keep this darkness away on my own.
So here I was with these unresolved mother issues that I thought I had dealt with only to see them coming up yet again.
I hadn’t felt quite myself since Christmas, when a whole lot of old wounds opened up again. My husband told me I wasn’t ready but I insisted I was. He always knows me better. I wasn’t ready.
I swore I made peace with her. But it was clear I hadn’t and it had started to manifest as this fog hanging over me. I couldn’t forgive her even if I kept telling myself that what she did wasn’t that bad. It felt bad to me. It felt life-altering for me as a child and it still does after all this time.
It doesn’t really matter what it was. I knew she never intentionally wanted to cause me harm. I knew if she really knew how she hurt me she might be devastated. I still was. I knew that the hardships that I endured as result of her bad decisions made me who I was. I made peace with that. Or I thought I had because here I was again, so f*cking mad at her.
Same behavior. Same indicators that I was not the priority. Same feeling of utter despair.
So here I was again. Broken. Again
Questioning myself and why I could never win the love of my parents in a way that felt real to me. The way in which you know no matter what that they will love you. The love felt like it was for some other person that they imagined me to be but wasn’t. Because I wasn’t that person anymore.
You know when you thought you put all the pieces back together?
What a freaking joke.
How could I be this wrong?
This is how powerful delusion is. How we try and protect ourselves.
So I’m done protecting myself and yes it hurts, and I don’t know if it will ever stop hurting. I don’t know and I’m ok if it doesn’t. Like my back pain, I can coexist with it. Maybe I don’t want to give up this pain yet because it is shaping the mother that I am. Or maybe I should be giving it up so that I can become the mother I am supposed to be.
I don’t know anymore.
But what I do know is that there are signs all around us that we fail to notice let alone read and consider.
But I really didn’t think the dragonfly was a sign.
I made the bath water as hot as I could stand it as I always did. The nearly scalding hot water is the only thing that takes away my pain, albeit temporarily. My head sweaty and woozy from the heat, Thom Yorke’s voice haunting me, carried on the cool breeze slipping in from the open window and hovering with the steam rising off the water.
Jennifer had used the Radiohead song, Codex in her class that day and I had left a comment that Thom Yorke + savasana = bliss. Half the time I didn’t even hear what Thom was singing but the first time I heard Radiohead it touched me in that place that is unspoken and I was hooked. Lotus Flower is the song right before Codex on the album and listening to it for the umpteenth time it occurred to me what a great yoga song it was (of course it is, it’s about a lotus flower for Pete’s sake!) and thought to myself that I should mention it and maybe Jennifer would use it in a yoga play list….
But it wasn’t just that I happened to be listening to Radiohead that night. I was in bed trying to shut my head off and go to sleep. I had wanted to go to sleep since 10 am that morning…. After an emotional breakdown I was always completely exhausted.…. my bed was calling me. But that song was calling me to listen for something I had never heard before…..
The feeling was so strong that I actually had been in bed when I decided to get up, take a bath and listen. I grabbed ipad and the song started in with it’s complex rhythms and layers. I played it a couple times while I settled into the bath until one line caught my attention…. “birds just flew into my room…..”
How many times had I listened to this song and never noticed that line?
My sister had an experience recently when birds flew into her hotel room while we were on the phone and had commented at the time that it was a sign. I smiled to myself remembering this. My sister seemed to have gotten good at seeing signs.
And then Codex came on.
I often ended up turning this song off because it made me cry. The way music touches you in places you didn’t know existed or why. Why was I crying? I don’t rightly know but this night in particular, I listened to the words…. Even though I knew them I had never heard them…..
Sleight of hand
Jump off the end
Into a clear lake
No one around
No one gets hurt
You’ve done nothing wrong
Slide your hand
Jump off the end
The water’s clear and innocent
The water’s clear and innocent
“Draaa……gon…..fli- iiiies…… he moaned.
What? Dragonflies? Did he say that? Oh my G-d. It was a sign.
In my dark despair I had missed it.
So excited by this experience, I used it as an opportunity to practice my writing. But as I began typing out the story, doubt started to creep in again. Maybe I just read too much into things. No one is going to think this story is as significant as I did, but, once again, the Universe had an answer.
I looked up from my rabid typing for a moment as I mulled around my doubt. I noticed a cup tipped over on the carpet. My son was playing Music Scene It in the living room (the offender of the tipped over cup, of course). The game has a question where they play a popular song “elevator” style and you have to guess the song. I was humming along with song as I walked over and picked up the cup trying to figure it out when I looked up to see the name of the song I couldn’t quite place. The song was “Signs”.
Ha! Take that doubt!
On this day when my mood was so foul we had gone to find a place to hold our weekly services. Yes, me the pastor’s wife who swears and struggles with depression did not want to go but I had to. I had to suck it up. This was big. Our ministry was just starting out and we had no money. My husband, Peter insisted we go to check this place out anyway.
So we drove up into the Santa Cruz Mountains, through the winding roads and into the redwood trees, silent with their secrets, shading the forest in their canopy.
It was breathtaking.
Peter said that this probably would not pan out because it was more expensive than some of the other places that were looking at. My only request was that it wouldn’t be in some hotel conference room with no windows and fluorescent lights. My connection to G-d always felt stronger outside, or at the very least, a window.
This was the furthest thing from a mediocre, generic hotel conference room and my heart actually sank thinking that we might not be able to afford this and yet it was perfect. This was a place where G-d was palpable.
As we wound up the road and pulled in, a blue heron took flight as we stepped out the car. It’s wings spanning the misty grey sky, it’s long graceful beak and body floating above us. I felt my breath catch in my throat as we all stopped to gasp at the unexpected beauty of this magnificent bird. I wanted to soar like that heron but I was still stuck in my morning of misery, trying to climb out of the dark hole I had fallen into.
When you struggle with depression and overcome it, the scariest thing is that moment when you realize those feelings of despair have crept in while you weren’t paying attention.
It always caught me by surprise when it showed up again.
I was lost in my own thoughts, only half listening to Peter as he explained our ministry and our goal of stripping religion from our relationship with G-d and showing people how to connect with their hearts, and not through some bullshit doctrine, when Anna, the executive director, said You can have the Guadalupe room every Sunday for free.
Tears filled both my and Peter’s eyes at this unexpected kindness.
I accept it!! I accept this kindness!!!
Despite being completely lost in despair that morning, that yoga class had been my refuge- my attempt to connect and tap into the power of love despite my heart feeling broken. I did it trying to pull myself out of my hole because I knew I had to do something. I knew that I was sinking. But until that moment I wasn’t feeling particularly kind and I had already forgotten about what kindness meant that day (especially to myself), feeling sorry for myself and beating myself up for feeling this way….
Until a perfect stranger came in and changed it…..
Until she spoke those words….. and extended a kindness so large and so meaningful that it was going to change our family’s world.
So today my heart is open wide even though it still hurts. Even as I type this our beautiful friend, Zheng is dying and Peter and my sister Lisa have gone to be with her this morning for what will probably be her last hours.
Kindness changes you. It changes the person who extends it, and it changes the person that receives it and even those who witness it. The fact is that every time a kindness is put into the universe, it changes our hearts….
It changes my heart…. And yes, I will be sad again.
My heart is breaking this morning thinking about Zheng’s life drawing to a close on this Earth. She emanates kindness and all that is beautiful with her mezzo soprano voice paralleling only what I imagine angels to sound like….. and she is leaving us now…..
and yes, I know that there will be more moments filled with despair because that is what life is.
Sadness will still find us but kindness will keep us from sinking.
So I will carry on Jennifer’s kindness, and Anna’s kindness, and Zheng’s kindness, because it is bigger than all of our sadness, and it has the potential to change everything in an instant…… as Rumi so beautifully reminded us.
“And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth,
“You owe me.”
Look what happens with love like that.
It lights up the sky.”
Dedicated to Zheng Cao